Sunday, July 13, 2014

Happy New Year!

New Year Flags by Rones

Last week, while reading tweets from members of my PLN (Professional Learning Network) I could see that people were planning. Planning for a new school year, planning for a new challenge, even planning for new positions or new schools. For those of us in education, July feels a lot like January. It is a time for making goals and changes, for really looking at what you have been doing or where you have been, and then working to make sure that when August comes around, and the students walk in the door, you are right where you are suppose to be, ready to give your very best!

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So today, I jumped on board the "Back to School" train! I bought my planner for the year! I've been thinking about the new school year all summer, as I participated in staff development, Twitter chats, Summer Learning challenges, brainstorming sessions with my #Wandoo5 +1 friends, and EdCamp Ft. Worth. But the purchasing of the planner says "I'm ready to focus & commit to ideas and goals for the new year."

Earlier this month, I watched with excitement as our school counselor, Lindsay Fuller started developing her own Twitter PLN and collaborated and connecting with other school counselors. I've shared how being a connected educator has helped me be a better librarian, and she experienced that this summer!  She wrote a fabulous blog post about her goals for this new school year that you can read HERE and sent out this sweet tweet!

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This and a session at EdCamp FWTX helped bring to mind one of my goals for the new school year, which is to help teachers on our campus become connected educators. I can do this by providing opportunities for connections and supporting them while they develop their own PLNs on Twitter.  Joining and participating in conversations & chats on Twitter is a great way to become a connected educator.  During EdCamp FWTX, Todd Nesloney Skyped in to talk about his Summer Learning Series aimed at getting educators connected and comfortable with using various tools. He also spoke to the people in the room about creating a PLN on Twitter. Here some more tweets from that session.

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Another goal I will have this year is having a MakerClub. Having had a Media MakerClub last school year, I know better than to name this club. The first thing the students did in the Media Maker Club was change the name to Digital Bookworms! :) #studentvoice

 If you've been reading this blog, you know we created a maker space in the library last spring. You can read the posts about it HERE and HERE.  My goal this year is to use this space not only during the school day, but also with an after school club. This club will change each six weeks, with a new collaborative project each six weeks. I have had several parents who are interested assisting with this club, so I will be calling upon them for help. The students have really enjoyed the time they have spent exploring the makerspace, but my goal is for it to be more product oriented, with a mini-makerfaire at the end of each session to showcase the creations of the students. 

The media maker club will also run similarly to this, so that students are learning a tool and then creating with that tool. This decision was based on feedback I got from the members of the Digital Bookworms at the end of last year.

Lastly, a goal I have this year is to collaborate even more with our campus teachers. Each year brings more opportunities for collaboration and more willing participants. These collaboration efforts, like other goals I have, need a specific focus so I will design collaborative projects for each grade level, with the help of the grade level teachers. With these collaborations, students will be taught a digital tool that they can use. While at AASL last November, I listened to Jennifer Reed talk about how she teaches each grade level a specific digital tool each year so that they build a tool box of digital tools. I did a little of this last year, but want to be more focused this year, planning ahead each grade level's tool. These tools will then be used for their collaborative project. 

I am excited about this new year! I'm ready to open my new planner, get focused and start working on these goals! What goals do you have for the new school year? 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

SummerThrowDown '14

I love being able to tackle my #TBR (to be read) stack during the summer, mixing in both kidlit and grown-up books. My friend Sherry Gick tweeted out about the 3rd annual SummerThrowDown, where this year you can challenge a friend to compete against you. I haven't challenged anyone, but I am finally attacking my stack of books that have been waiting for me! For more information, you can read Sherry's blog post at The Library Fanatic.  

The organizers of SummerThrowDown are:
Brian Wyzlic - Wyz Reads 
Kathy Burnette  - The Brain Lair 

All of these folks, Sherry included, would be great people to follow on Twitter and add to your PLN.

My goal for SummerThrowDown is 25 books. Having just finished Divergent, and now I'm reading Insurgent by Veronica Roth, so I'm definitely going to have to work in some picture books to reach my goal!

If you want to join the SummerThrowDown, you can sign up here

To follow my progress, you can find me on Goodreads.

Happy Reading!
Also, please ignore the two pictures of Insurgent. Not sure why it is showing up twice! :)

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

#Wandoo5 in Indianapolis

What a whirlwind 24 hours I just spent in Indianapolis with some incredibly passionate people! Five librarians from across the country were invited by Evanced Solutions, a Demco company, to participate in a day of conversation centering around children and reading.  We already knew each other through Twitter, and have all met face to face before at AASL 13, but it was great to all be in the same space!

Matthew Winner, Sherry Gick, Andy Plemmons, Shannon Miller and myself  had all met Lindsey Hill during the Wandoo Planet Banish Boredom Tour. After this tour it was decided that we would all fly to Evanced headquarters in Indianapolis for a "think tank" session! We were excited about the opportunity for sharing ideas and having conversations about children & reading (two of our most favorite things!)

Before we arrived, a sign was created and our group was named the Wandoo 5! We LOVED this and it became our hashtag for the trip! You can search #Wandoo5 on Twitter to read about our day!

Lindsey, the lead for Reading Engagement Innovation for Evanced, picked us up from the airport and then became our tour guide and hostess for the evening. We all were able to visit and catch up with each other, and then enjoyed dinner with president and co-founder of Evanced, Rob Cullin and his wife, Kim Bolan Cullin. A fun fact is that BOTH of them have been named to Library Journal's "Movers & Shakers" list. Add Matthew & Shannon, and half the table had made this list!

The next day was eye-opening and inspiring! The day had been well planned to maximize our time together.
We talked about issues that stand in the way of progress and accomplishing goals. An issue that was shared by several was the lack of technology, whether it be on the campus or in the students' homes. We also talked about librarianship and different mindsets. This was a very interesting topic as we broke it down by combinations of growth mindsets and available support.

A common mindset for most of us in the room seemed to be that we aren't afraid of failure. We might not like to fail, but the fear of failure generally doesn't keep us from attempting something new. We talked about how we could influence others to try new things, and as Andy says, "Expect the miraculous!"

Matt Sheley, Vice-President of Evanced, shared with us the focus and vision of Evanced and their products. The five of us are all familiar with Wandoo Planet, a reading engagement tool that we have Beta tested and enjoyed, but we also learned about Wandoo Reader, a  reading tracker in a gaming format that is being marketed to public libraries to enhance their summer reading programs. As kiddos log their reading, they will have the opportunity to build robots, even earning game codes that allow them to unlock additional parts. An added bonus to this new product is the data collecting capabilities that can possibly connect the school and public libraries. And guess what is right in the center of this new idea... you guessed it! Children and reading, of course! :) These two reading engagement tools are interest driven and geared to readers 6-14 years of age, although due to the gaming aspect, it could be something even adults could enjoy with their children.

During a break, we were able to tour the building that houses Evanced. It was so interesting to see the development department at work. This floor was VERY QUIET!

The marketing department was also on this floor.

Notice the variety of seating! This was an unexpected "take-away" from the day. I noticed the different areas for collaboration and conversation. I thought about how I could implement these types of spaces more in our library. I was fortunate to have even had a few minutes to talk with Kim Cullin the night before about library design, something I think about often due to our changing needs in the library, and something that she is an expert on.

During our working lunch, we learned even more about Wandoo Reader. It was obvious that they really wanted our thoughts and feedback to ensure that the product they had created was a viable resource for librarians and even teachers and an engaging tool for readers. We talked about components that teachers might want and ways to make it fun for kids. They listened as the #Wandoo5 shared their thoughts of this game. You could tell who the real gamers were in the room as they discussed different gaming aspects.

On a side note, it was very interesting to watch the young lady from Evanced sitting next to me who drew some incredible sketches during our day. I just wish I had snapped a picture of one of her sketches. She is very talented!

This was another take away from the day: everyone in that room was passionate about what they were doing. Whether they were a teacher-librarian, a game creator, or a leader of the company, people were doing what they loved! A quote that was mentioned during the day was

I felt this during our day together! Even if we experience failures or frustrations from time to time, we are passionate about what we do and this is what brings us happiness!

Here is a prime example of passion and doing what you love. These are Matt's notes about Wandoo Planet!

After lunch, we saw some possible improvements/changes that were being looked at in Wandoo Planet. I was so happy that my students had been Beta testers, and the company listened and improved the program based on feedback. One thing I really liked was how the interests the students really loved were placed in a hole and a tree grew from it. Students could really see how their trees grew from their loves & interests. My students have enjoyed using Wandoo Planet to find books and movies based on their interests. It is a tool that I have reminded them of this summer as I am sure parents are already hearing, "I'm bored!" :)

The day ended with each of us sharing our "Why" and this was probably the most moving and inspiring part of the day for me. I already knew that the librarians in the room with me are incredible, and this just reinforced it.  Matthew explained how his why is the children, it always will be. Shannon shared about how we have the power to change a life when we listen to our students and provide opportunities for them to feel success. Sherry expressed how her why is making sure that the library belongs to her students, that each of them finds a home there. Andy talked about creating a participatory environment, with all kinds of activities, so that every student can find their interest or passion. After listening to each of their heartfelt explanations about their "Why" I was reminded of why I follow each of them on their professional journey, and learn from them every time I connect with them. They are my mentors and I want to be just like them when I grow up! ;)

And just as important as our "Why" is Evanced's Why. Rob, Matt, Lindsey and everyone else with Evanced, showed us that day that WE are their "Why." Rob said he can't do what we do, but he can solve problems. That's his "Why".  Their passion is supporting libraries and librarians and creating programs that encourage students to read. They know that reading is a key to future success, and that by creating programs such as Wandoo Planet and Wandoo Reader, they are helping students connect reading with their interests.

It was an experience I won't soon forget! Thank you everyone at Evanced for an AWESOME day!! Maybe we should make it an annual event!